The last two weeks have had both World Rugby and Rugby Africa make gigantic announcements that will shape the landscape of Uganda rugby starting next year.
While Rugby Africa unveiled a new and bigger 2020 Rugby Africa Cup (RAC), World Rugby has announced a Rugby 7s schedule, dubbed the ‘New Challenger Series’ which will have Uganda and 12 other sides compete in three legs.
The Rugby Cranes test side will have more games than before instead of the customary three to four games a year let alone this one, thanks to the home and away format of the Victoria Cup which ensured Uganda played six games and one extra in the opening leg of the Elgon Cup in Kenya to make it seven.
They could play up to eight games next year if they go past the semis with a final or third place play-off final to play. Four home and away pool games, a semi-final and final would make it six for the tournament before considering the annual two leg Elgon Cup to make it eight.
In the shorter version of the game, Tolbert Onyango’s men have trips to South America in Viña del Mar, Chile (February15-16) and Montevideo, Uruguay (February22-23).
They then switch attention to Hong Kong for the April 3-5 World Series Qualifier before they take a shot at Olympics qualification (June 20-21). The marathon continues with the annual sevens Africa Cup later in the year.
“That is a lot of rugby,” says Uganda Rugby Union president Godwin Kayangwe. His assessment is honest since it’s the same small pool of players expected to make both the tests and sevens sides.
“Next year will be tight because we cannot avoid separating the 15s and 7s, we have to do it because at some stage they will all be playing at the same time.”
Separation of the two formats has been a cry for national team coaches in the past with Onyango leading the crusade.
“First of all we need to completely have a full split of sevens and 15s players so that we don’t have to mix up the codes, then we can tick the boxes,” stressed Onyango in 2016 after winning the Africa Cup in Kenya. Divorcing the two codes however requires a wide player pool base which Uganda lacks although a recently released four year URU strategy points it out as a key area to tackle.
Apart from the issue of divorcing the 15s from the 7s, Kayangwe also expects the heavily loaded calendar to stretch the URU coffers with a lot to take care of.